Scary Halloween Cupcakes Recipe

Every year when Halloween comes around, we all have the perfect excuse to get dressed up in costume and have a spooky time. Not only is it a great time to experiment with fun disguises, but there are also plenty of ways to bring the holiday to the table. With an array of invitations to costume parties and gatherings, some extra eerie treats are certainly welcome. 

This scary Halloween cupcake recipe by Mashed recipe developer Kristen Carli is an excellent sweet addition to your eerie menu. Carli is the owner of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness, and she knows the value of including the occasional cupcake alongside a nutritious diet. She says that "these skeleton cupcakes are perfect for Halloween." Classic chocolate and vanilla cupcakes take on a totally different twist thanks to a creative hand with the frosting decoration. Nevertheless, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy these tasty cupcakes year round!

Gather the ingredients for these scary Halloween cupcakes

To start, you'll need to combine the dry ingredients for the cupcakes. Flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt all come together as a base. Carli indicates that granulated white sugar is best for this recipe and warns, "I would recommend not substituting brown sugar." Since a fair bit of sugar is added, unsweetened cocoa powder prevents the cupcakes from being too sweet (you will be covering them with frosting, after all). 

Next come the wet ingredients — egg, buttermilk, canola oil, vanilla extract, and water. The egg acts as a binder to blend all of the ingredients together while adding richness to the flavor. Buttermilk helps to activate the baking soda, resulting in cupcakes that are light and fluffy. In case you don't have any buttermilk on hand, adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar to milk will do the trick.

Canola oil guarantees the cupcakes will be moist, which is the ultimate goal. Adding water will help thin the batter out while hydrating the cocoa powder at the same time. Finally, you could always make your own frosting, but since you will already spend extra time decorating the cupcakes, go for the shortcut and use store-bought containers of chocolate and vanilla frosting.

Start by whisking the dry ingredients together

To begin, preheat the oven to 300 F so that it has a chance to come to temperature while you are getting the cupcakes ready. Next, spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, or alternatively, use paper or silicone liners. Now, set out a large bowl and measure out one cup each of flour and white granulated sugar, half a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, one teaspoon of baking soda, and half a teaspoon of salt. Add them all to the bowl and combine them using a whisk until the mixture is completely combined.

Mix the wet ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer

Next, set out a stand mixer for the wet ingredients. Crack one egg into the bowl, then pour in half a cup each of buttermilk and canola oil, and finally, add one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Now, using the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, mix the contents of the bowl until they are properly combined. The mixture should be uniform throughout to ensure that it blends successfully with the dry ingredients. 

Combine the dry and wet ingredients

Once the wet and dry ingredients have each been separately mixed, it's time to combine them together. Carefully add the dry ingredients into the wet ones, and then mix the contents of the bowl to combine everything. The batter will now be fairly thick, which is why you will add half a cup of water and stir it in until the mixture thins out.

Pour the batter into the muffin tins and bake

With a ladle, spoon, or careful aim, pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins. You should have enough batter to make 12 muffins. Transfer the muffin tray to an oven rack, and bake the cupcakes for 22 minutes. Carli indicates that "after 22 minutes, a toothpick should come out dry." Depending on your oven, you may need to slightly adjust the timing. Once they are ready, remove the tray from the oven and let the cupcakes cool down completely. Transferring them to a cooling rack will speed up the process.

Spread the vanilla frosting over the top of the muffins

Once the cupcakes are cool, the next step is to top them with frosting. Start with the vanilla frosting, covering the top surface from edge to edge. Use a butter knife, spoon, or icing spatula if you happen to have one. You should have enough icing from one 16-ounce container to frost all 12 cupcakes. 

Draw a skeleton face with the chocolate frosting, then serve these spooky cupcakes

Finally, it's time to make the skeleton faces, although Carli adds that, "You could also use frosting to make other Halloween shapes such as spiders or jack-o-lanterns." Transfer the chocolate frosting into a piping bag or a zip-top plastic bag and seal it completely. If you are improvising with the latter, cut a small, one-eighth-inch slit in one corner of the bag. Now, squeeze the part of the bag filled with icing while drawing out a skeleton face on top of the white frosting. This is definitely the time for your inner artist to shine! 

Once you've frosted all 12 cupcakes, they are ready to serve. Carli explains that "these cupcakes are very moist, so [they] are best stored in the fridge in an airtight container." Happy Halloween!

Scary Halloween Cupcakes Recipe
5 from 37 ratings
This scary Halloween cupcake recipe by Mashed recipe developer Kristen Carli is an excellent sweet addition to your eerie menu.
Prep Time
Cook Time
one skeleton cupcake
Total time: 37 minutes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 (16-ounce) container chocolate frosting
  • 1 (16-ounce) container vanilla frosting
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.
  2. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
  4. Next, in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg, buttermilk, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Mix to combine.
  5. Add the dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix to combine.
  6. Pour the water in and continue to mix the contents until they combine into a thin batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the muffin tins and bake them for 22 minutes.
  8. Once they are ready, remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
  9. When they are cool, frost the muffin tops with vanilla frosting.
  10. Transfer the chocolate frosting into a piping bag or zip-top plastic bag and seal it completely. If using a zip-top bag, cut a very small ⅛-inch slit in the corner of the bag.
  11. Using the piping bag, draw skeleton faces on top of the vanilla frosting.
  12. Serve your scary Halloween cupcakes.
Calories per Serving 509
Total Fat 22.9 g
Saturated Fat 4.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 13.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 76.8 g
Dietary Fiber 1.9 g
Total Sugars 62.9 g
Sodium 325.0 mg
Protein 3.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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